It’s for the best that I didn’t partake in any herbal supplements before Batushka‘s Hospodi (Metal Blade) as I feel that the religious themes and spectacle would’ve kicked open a vault of repressed Catholic guilt sitting in the back of my head. You see, the uncertain nature of religion and faith is one of the few things that elicits true fear from me. Well that, wasps, tractor-trailers and large dogs, but who’s counting?
Where does this fear stem from? I don’t know, probably countless Sunday school afternoons and repeated viewings of John Carpenter‘s Prince of Darkness. What makes Hospodi so unsettling is that it’s not the typical “free of Jesus Christ” posturing and attitude that’s always been associated with metal, but how much their sound and presentation is informed by religious ceremony and tradition. Adding to the uncertainty is that the lyrics and titles are apparently written in an old Slavonic language and it’s up to the listener to figure out if the music is pro or anti-religion.
And speaking of the music, it’s as if Batushka saw what their Polish compatriots in Behemoth did on I Loved You at Your Darkest and The Satanist and said, “Hold my mead.” Cuts like ‘Wozglas’ and ‘Polunosznica’ immediately wrap the listener in a sinister and rich tapestry that lets you know that this isn’t cheap Black Metal made for kvlt cred. As a matter of fact, they lay it down so thick with the church-like choirs and prolonged song build-ups that it left me wondering early on if Hospodi was all sizzle and no steak. But then you get your chest caved in by ‘Wieczernia’ and ‘Pierwyj Czas’ and their volleys of kick drums and swath of blistering tremolo licks. And not to sound ungrateful, but Hospodi could’ve used a bit more blackened speed and grit here and there, but that’s without discounting the Post Metal vibes that reverberate throughout the tense ‘Tretij Czas.’
As tempted as I am to figure out what their actual stance is on a higher power, I don’t think I want to ruin the ambiguity of Hospodi. I’ll keep it around for whenever I want to give myself a good scare.
7 / 10